Q: My wife and I are both 30-year Civil Service Retirement System employees. We have attended several retirement seminars and hear differing views as to whether we should both choose full survivor benefits at time of retirement. Is there a general rule of thumb, or does it depend on what the surviving spouse feels they could live with?
A: Let’s begin at the beginning. Both of you are required by law to provide a full survivor annuity to your spouse unless you agree in writing to provide less than that (or nothing at all). As you suspected, there is no rule of thumb guiding a decision to accept or turn down a survivor annuity. You both will have to estimate your future financial needs should your partner die and base your decision on that.